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Entry from August 02, 2006
Son-of-a-Bitch Stew (Son-of-a-Gun Stew)

"Son-of-a-bitch stew” (or the more politely titled “son-of-a-gun stew") is a cowboy stew with a little bit of everything in it. In the closing years of the range (by the early 1900s), the name “son-of-a-bitch stew” was changed to “County Attorney” or “District Attorney.”

And keep moving on: the Virginia campaign, May-June 1864
By Mark Grimsley
Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press
Pg. 179:
A sort of [stewlike] mush...wh[ich] they call “Son of a b---h”

11 May 1929, Dallas Morning News, “Ask Governor to Reappoint Mrs. O’Hair” by Jan Isbelle Fortune, pg. 14:
Beans and sow belly, barbecued beef and mutton, son-of-a-gun stew, stewed prunes and sour dough bread with black coffee, was served to an enthusiastic crowd of both Texas press women and local residents, while the Sul Ross College band played and sang.

22 October 1933, New York Times, pg. 8:

boy Name for Beef Stew—
Garner Quits Tour.

ANACACHO RANCH, Texas, Oct. 21 (AP).—James A. Farley, Postmaster General, knows today that “son-of-a-gun” in cowboy parlance means a meat stew. But he did not find out until after Will Rogers, humorist, had roped him by the heels as he ran down a private right-of-way at the R. W. Morrison ranch.

Cooking Recipes of the Pioneers
published under the auspices
Bandera Library Association
[John Marvin Hunter—ed.]
Bandera, TX: Frontier Times
Pg. 13:
Son-of-a-Gun Stew,
Sometimes Known as Hasslett, or Cowboy’s Delight.
Cut in cubes the liver, heart, melt and sweet breads of buffalo, venison, beef, or hog; roll in meal and fry slightly. Then cover with boiling water. Add onion, pepper and salt to taste thicken with flour and cook until meat falls to pieces and the liquor has stewed down low. Some cooks add a small (Pg. 14—ed.) piece of lean meat to the foregoing. A favorite recipe from West Texas camps.

23 November 1939, Washington Post, pg. 2:
Incidentally, (Vice President—ed.) Garner has the reputation of being an expert at making “son-of-a-gun” stew, a cow-country dish, which varies widely, according to who dictates the ingredients—and according to what ingredients are at hand. Today Garner planned to cook over a campfire, but whether it was venison steak, breast of wild turkey or wild duck, or just another batch of “son-of-a-gun” stew, his fellow townsmen were uninformed.

17 May 1940, Washington Post, pg. 14:
Texas Blends Mexican
And Ranch Cooking

Mrs. Richard Kleberg Gives Recipes
For Enchiladas While Husband Tells
How to Make Popular Son-of-a-Gun-Stew
By Martha Ellyn
Chuckwagon parties are still a part of Texas life. On the ranch of Congressman Richard M. Kleberg of Texas, chuckwagon barbecues are often given. I learned from Mr. Kleberg that besides barbecueing beef and goat at such gatherings, that he often serves a concoction called “son-of-a-gun stew.” This stew is allowed to cook all the time that the animals are being roasted. Pan bread, Mexican rice, beer and coffee are other foods served from the chuckwagon. Mr. Kleberg gave me the ingredients used for making the “son-of-a-gun stew,” and the amount of each used will be dependent on the number to be served.

Son-of-a-gun Stew—Use kidneys, liver, sweet breads and beef. Add onions, corn and potatoes. Add plenty of seasonings and simmer until the meats are very tender.

“Treasure Pots”
Recipes Compiled by Members of
The Austin Woman’s Club
First edition
September 1940
Pg. 135:
Cow Camp Stew (Son-of-a-gun)
(Miss Ethel Foster, Sterling City, Texas, House Chairman, T.F.W.C.)
1/2 lb. meat.
1 1/2 lb. marrow gut.
3/4 lb. heart.
1/2 lb. liver.
3/4 lb. sweetbreads.
1 set brains.

Cut all into small pieces (about 1/2 inch). Place all except brains in a rather large container with plenty of water. Stew slowly for 4 or hours. Add brains about an hour before done. When done add seasoning of salt and black pepper to taste. A dash of red pepper. Thicken the gravy slightly.

June 1942, Gourmet, “Saddle Seasoning: Cooking on the Texas Range,” pg. 7, col. 1:
Dinner will be, basically, son-of-a-gun (col. 2—ed.), sourdough biscuits, cowboy beans, and calf fries.

The proper name for son-of-a-gun is son-of-a-bitch, but for the benefit of the cowboys, who are averse to saying such things in the presence of ladies, it is commonly called son-of-a-gun. It is an unbelievably delicious concoction invented by some long-forgotten chuck wagon cook. Nobody knows the correct proportions of the various ingredients except the cook who is about to prepare it, and he doesn’t know how much of what he has used when he gets it in the pot.  The utensils necessary to prepare the dish are an iron or an enamel kettle, a butcher knife, and a long-handled iron spoon. The ingredients which, except for (col. 3—ed.) the salt and pepper, are all taken from a freshly killed beef, are as follows: marrow gut, cut in not more than quarter-inch lengths, diced lean meat, kidney fat, brains, sweetbreads, and finely chopped kidney, all of which are placed in the cooking vessel with a small quantity of water increased as required throughout the cooking process, and are then allowed to cook for not less than 12 hours. Some cooks add a dash of sage, and others, chili; but the old chuck wagon cook sticks to salt and pepper and says, “all them things is sissy.” The natural complement for son-of-a-gun is cowboy beans, which are pinto beans boiled with “anything handy chunked in.” (...) Chili powder may be added to advantage, along with the must-be onions, garlic, and suet.

9 May 1946, Walla Walla (WA) Union-Bulletin, pg. 7:
“Son-of-a-Gun Stew,” described as a sampling of the SOuthwest is a collection of stories and articles from the Southwest Review.

29 September 1947, Olean (NY) Times Herald, pg. 5::
It will start off with “chow” from six to eight o’clock and will consist of “Son-of-a-gun stew, baked slippery elm with bait, mesquite green, sour dough, corn cake, tonsil varnish and cake.”

The Texas Cookbook
by Arthur and Bobbie Coleman
New York: A. A. Wyn
Pg. 45:
And then there is the way that is all Texas’ own: the original Son-of-a-Bitch Stew. It grew up on the far ranches, where cowbrutes are the main source of food. But no one should let its apparent sparseness deceive him. The Son-of-a-Bitch Stew is well-named--it is just that, in the admiring sense.

This recipe is straight off Uncle Jim’s range, out in the Pecos Country, exactly as Aunt Nannie gave it to us. Aunt Nannie ought to know. She has been cooking this stew and other good food for cowpokes since we were yearlings, more or less. Of course, these quantities have been citified. Aunt Nannie is more used to fixing for a couple of dozen hungry hands than for a family.

Pecos Son-of-a-Bitch Stew
Throw into the pot 1 pound of neck meat cut in small pieces, 1 heart cut up, the brains, all the marrow-gut, a (Pg. 46--ed.) little of the liver, salt, pepper, and chiles. Start in cold water.  cook slowly until done, about 6 or 7 hours. When the meat is almost done, add 1 large can of tomato juice, if desired. Feeds about 8.

For the edification of those who may be dubious about marrow-gut, it is not an intestine. It is a milk-secreting tract found only in calves, and it imparts to a stew a delicious flavor all its own, without which the stew is nothing like so distinctive. Here is another version of the Son-of-a-Bitch Stew, which Jack Thornton says out in the country where he ranched for many
years is called “Gentleman from Odessa” (Odessa, Texas, of course)—nobody we ever met seems to know why—but for the mollification of gentlemen from Odessa, he smiled when he said it. In fact, he laughed out loud. 

15 May 1960, Independent, Scene, pg. 7:
When Wife Martha gets stranded on a mission, Pop decides to cook up his own specialty for the great occasion: Texas Son-of-a-Bitch Stew.

6 December 1965, New York Times, pg. 35 ad:
From Sourdough Bread to Son-of-a-Bitch Stew, a Roundup of Authentic Western Recipes (with palaver): RATTLESNAKE UNDER GLASS by Martha Eastlake. $3.95

21 July 1966, New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), pg. 15:
“A Bowl of Red” by Frank X. Tolbert (Doubleday) is about the tonsil-searing gourmet food of the Southwest which few people from less sturdy regions have ever been able to swallow—chili con carne, tamales, tacos, enchiladas, jalapeno cornbread and son-of-a-bitch stew. The Tex-Mex food is a state of mind; you have to be born in the area to understand it.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, August 02, 2006 • Permalink